The move of the Worship on the Waterfront (WOW) Sunday music series from Grand Haven to Holland gave the impetus for another series to spring up in Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium.
The new "Praise by the Pier" debuted June 13 at the downtown location along the channel. More on that in a bit.
Meanwhile, the Grand Haven waterfront space came open when the WOW weekly concerts featuring national Christian music artists found themselves dealing with tighter restrictions in accommodating its growing spectator numbers.
"It was a succession of reasons," said WOW coordinator Kathleen Bobeldyk of its decision to change venues. "From working with city officials, we saw the look of this year's concert area would have been totally different."
Two main issues: retail businesses now in the historic depot building behind the stadium would need space to get customers in and out without encroachment from standing room concert crowds. And privacy screens, erected at WOW expense, would have limited sightlines by overflow spectators not within the stadium itself. The event regularly drew thousands of people within a limited footprint.
"We thought about changing our free format," she noted of possibilities for a "down-sized" crowd. "But we wanted to keep it a (free) ministry-related event. And then Beechwood Church in Holland stepped up and was excited about the opportunity to host."
A SUITABLE LOCATION
The Beechwood Church, Ottawa Beach Road west of Holland, has a large campus complete with an outdoor stage platform it uses for its outdoor worship.
There's plenty of parking – especially handicapped parking and access for music artists – which was lacking in downtown Grand Haven.
"There's more green space, a playground area, trails and picnic tables, space for food trucks...it's a great setting," Bobeldyk noted of the 88-acre campus.
And Beechwood's sanctuary and multi-purpose video viewing room ( total capacity of more than 1,400) are nearby in case of inclement weather.
"Yes, we lose that beautiful waterfront (in Grand Haven). But this is really a wonderful outdoor space."
A waterfront connection: one of the bays of Lake Macatawa stretches north toward the road across the street for the church. In fact, in 1990 when the Beechwood church was built at that location, some observers referred to it as "Beechwood by the Bay."
With its 2021 artist schedule, WOW continues its approach of bringing in national artists which has increased crowd-size over the years.
WOW's opening night June 20 featured singer-songwriter Cory Asbury ("Reckless Love"). Although weather forced the concert indoors, church pastor Dave Lantz said it was a good experience.
"Our preference was to be outdoors, but this gave us a good feel about how it all works," he said. "The WOW team did a great job with 'people flow' and security."
The pastor said this one-year partnership (to evaluated at year's end) is a welcome opportunity and in line with Beechwood's mission.
"When the church first acquired this property the desire was to steward it and utilize it for the community. And to have as many people, whether they attend (church) here or not – enjoy this space."
For the full schedule and info on "skip the line" tickets visit https://www.facebook.com/worshiponthewaterfront.
AND, AT THE SAME TIME
Chris Hansen and his Hark Up Horns ensemble kicked off the new "Praise by the Pier" series June 13 in the Waterfront Stadium.
Hansen was one of those asked to serve on a committee to plan and produce the newly-formed, free-admission series, at 7pm each Sunday evening through Aug. 29.
WOW officially announced its move in early spring, so plans had to come together quickly.
"In this series we wanted to involve local area church groups and music artists, more like what they used to do," said Hansen, noting WOW's preference for nationally-known talents.
The June 13 opening night drew about 1,200 spectators. "Really, it couldn't have gone better... response was phenomenal," Hansen reported.
The artist roster reflects the area feel – music artists from Resonate Church in Newaygo on July 4 and Harvest Bible Church of Spring Lake July 25.
There's also a variety of styles, evidenced by the Singing Crusaders men's chorus with a brass group Aug. 22, and the gospel sounds of Deborah Perry & Majestic Praise Aug. 1.
"A key part of our (planning) team is made up of downtown merchants who are open on Sundays," Hansen noted. "They want people downtown and are very supportive of it."
There is an ongoing fundraising effort to meet expenses for the free-admission series.
For the schedule and more information visit https://www.facebook.com/PraisebythePier
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